French school moving from Portland to South Portland

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A dual French and English school for pre-K and kindergarten students is moving across the Casco Bay Bridge from Portland and preparing for its inaugural year in the city. 

La Petite Ecole has been operating for the last nine years at 131 Spring St. in Portland’s West End, where it was founded by teacher Marie-Gaelle Casset-Ford.

The school is leaving Portland because its building is being sold.

Casset-Ford said she knew Ticia Berube, the owner of the former Casco Bay Montessori School at 440 Ocean St., and also knew Berube, who founded the Montessori school in 1988, was retiring. Also, the school’s Victorian-era building between Highland Avenue and Sawyer Street was for sale.

It was purchased Aug. 3 by La Petite Ecole. 

Casset-Ford, who has a master’s degree from Lesley University and an undergraduate degree in sculpture from Maine College of Art, said she is in the process of moving and will be ready for students next month.

La Petite Ecole is currently accepting enrollments; it will open officially Sept. 10 at the new location. A ribbon-cutting and grand opening will take place Saturday, Sept.8.

Casset-Ford said the building, on just under half an acre, will allow her to expand and utilize additional outdoor space. About 35 students will be accommodated by the program, although she said classes will have about 18 to 25 students, with five teachers on staff. 

La Petite Ecole offers a bilingual, art-based, full-day program with after care and other programs. The curriculum is designed to develop age-appropriate skills that include social, cognitive, communication and motor skills.

Casset-Ford, who was raised in Paris and Brittany, came to Maine nearly 30 years ago when she visited her brother, who was attending school at the University of Southern Maine. She then enrolled in Maine College of Art and remained to work, continue her studies and start a family. 

She said she sought to incorporate her two passions – teaching art and French – as her vision of La Petite Ecole began to take shape. 

Casset-Ford said students in pre-K and kindergarten are especially “eager to learn, are lovers of everything, and in their experience are open to everything.”

She compared children to “little sponges,” with an ability to learn languages easily. 

 Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JulietteLaaka.

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